Skip to main content

Coronavirus: Iran closes down schools and universities as death toll rises

Iraq has, meanwhile, cancelled Friday prayers to prevent the spread of the virus
A worker wears a protective face mask, following an outbreak of the coronavirus, at Basra airport, in Basra (Reuters)

Iran closed down schools and universities on Thursday for a month to prevent a further spread of the new coronavirus disease, as the death toll from the virus continues to rise across the country. 

Iranian authorities, however, have ruled out quarantining the city of Qom, which has become the epicentre for the virus in the Middle East. 

Coronavirus in the Middle East and North Africa: What do we know so far?
Read More »

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


"People should not consider this as an opportunity to go travelling. They should stay at home and take our warnings seriously," said Iranian Health Minister Saeed Namaki.

Namaki said that the number of diagnosed cases for the coronavirus had reached 3,513, with the death toll rising to 107. 

Earlier, the minister said all schools and universities will be closed until the end of the Iranian calendar year on 20 March.

Rouhani ​​​said on Wednesday that "almost" all of Iran's provinces have seen coronavirus cases. 

Iran has reported a higher deaths-to-infections ratio when compared to other countries, sparking fears that the number of people infected may be higher than current figures show.

The Iranian healthcare sector was already drastically weakened by US sanctions before the virus' outbreak, and the government has been left scrambling to respond to the fast pace of infections.

Several MPs and top officials have been infected by the virus, with a senior adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dying from the illness. 

Last month, Namaki said the virus had come from China to the holy city of Qom in central Iran. Namaki said the first diagnosed patient was a merchant who often travelled between China and Qom.   

Iraq cancels Friday prayers in Karbala 

Iraq, meanwhile, cancelled Friday prayers in the holy city of Karbala to prevent the spread of the new strain of coronavirus.

A statement from Karbala's holy mosque administration on Thursday confirmed the Friday prayer cancellations, only a day after Saudi Arabia barred its citizens from visiting the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. 

The Iraqi health ministry confirmed on Wednesday that a second person had died from the coronavirus in Baghdad. The ministry added that the patient had many chronic diseases that contributed to his demise. 

Other preventative measures taken by the Iraqi authorities include cancelling all flights to Iranian cities and closing its borders with Iran to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. 

Iraq has so far has recorded 32 coronavirus cases.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.